What is Meliodosis? Rare bacteria causing DEADLY infection is detected in US for first time
A bacteria has been detected in the US for the first time and it is responsible for a disease that kills up to 50 percent of the people it infects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed. Burkholderia pseudomallei, which causes melioidosis, has been detected in soil and water samples from the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
An investigation into two cases in the area found the presence of the bacteria. While around a dozen Americans contract the disease every year, cases have always been tied to foreign travel. Officials, however, have said that the risk to the public remained "very low" despite the bacteria being detected in the US. Half of the people with confirmed infections globally reportedly die. Experts have said that the detection was a "big deal". Doctors have been asked to be alert for the disease in local patients.
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CDC said it was "unclear" how long the bacteria has been in America, or if was present in other states too. They claimed that the environmental conditions along the Gulf Coast are "conductive" to the bacteria being able to survive. Two unrelated patients who lived near each other contracted the disease in 2020 and 2022. The CDC then launched an investigation earlier this year, subsequently making the discovery.
According to the CDC, "Melioidosis is caused by direct contact with B. pseudomallei, which is found in contaminated soil and water. Among the average of 12 melioidosis cases diagnosed in the United States each year, most have occurred in people with recent travel to a country where this bacteria is endemic. Cases of melioidosis have also been linked to contaminated commercial products imported from disease-endemic countries." It said of the symptoms of the disease, "Melioidosis has a wide range of nonspecific symptoms like fever, joint pain, and headaches and can cause conditions that include pneumonia, abscess formation, or blood infections. Worldwide, melioidosis is fatal in 10 – 50% of those infected."
“This is a big deal because clinicians generally speaking only consider melioidosis in patients who have recent travel to an endemic area like Thailand, South Asia, Australia. They would not consider just somebody living in the Gulf Coast area who has never traveled, that they would have melioidosis,” Julia Petras, an epidemic intelligence service officer with CDC’s bacterial special pathogens branch," told STAT news. She added, "They would not consider just somebody living in the Gulf Coast area who has never traveled, that they would have melioidosis."
"So really the purpose of this [alert] is to say: Look, we found it here. It is locally endemic in this region. Be on alert. Because this disease can look like a lot of different things, so it can be challenging to diagnose," she said. Reportedly, access to medicine drops the risk of death in countries like the US to around ten percent.